IPL hair removal – a real life experience

Permalink

When it came to researching laser hair removal and IPL, I was struck by how difficult I found it to find a review which was not sponsored, or by a salon with a vested interest in a particular technology, and where the person had actually undergone a course of treatment rather than just one session. I’m coming to the end of my course, so I wanted to share my unbiased and real life experience of IPL here for anyone considering this treatment.

Hair removal is a time consuming thing if you’re a woman. Putting aside the issue of why we feel we need to remove our body hair in certain places, the fact is that most of us will spend a good portion of our lives shaving / waxing / using creams – whatever method we prefer, we’re likely to be doing it most weeks (at least during the summer anyway).

I’ve always been self conscious about the hair on my upper lip – I’m dark haired, with olive skin, so it would be noticeable to me and I would use hair removal cream once a week to get rid of it. Since having a baby, I’ve found the time involved in shaving my legs and general hair removal had become such a chore that I finally decided I wanted to look into longer term hair removal.

 

The Consultation

I was already visiting a beauty salon for other treatments that I was very happy with, so I was comfortable with undergoing this treatment with them. It’s important that you’re happy with the salon or clinic that you’ll be using.

My initial consultation was free of charge and was an in depth discussion about my reasons for wanting the treatment, my expectations of what could be achieved, the different methods available, and what each was likely to involve and cost.

My initial feeling was that I wanted electrolysis on my upper lip – it’s the only really permanent method of hair removal available. But once I learned that you had to grow the hair to at least half a centimetre long, that ruled it out for me. My self consciousness was the whole reason that I was going to have this treatment, there was no way I was going to walk around with half a centimetre of hair on my upper lip! My consultant also suggested that this would be far more expensive than IPL for that area. She recommended a course of IPL, taking a view at the end of it as to whether there were any particularly stubborn hairs that might benefit from electrolysis. I investigated the Soprano laser treatment as well (which I’d heard was a less painful option), as the salon also offered this, but was advised that given the fairness of my skin, the Lumina IPL machine would be a more effective and quicker option for me. I liked that the salon offered both IPL and laser, and were therefor able to give me an objective opinion on both. My consultant had undergone both the treatments herself in different places on her body, and had said that she found the Soprano treatment to require many more sessions to achieve the same result.

During my consultation I had a patch test on both my lip and my leg, so that I could test out the level of pain that the treatment would involve. I’d expected it to be more painful than it was – I’d describe it as a hot jolt, and less painful than I’ve found waxing in the past.

 

What is IPL?

IPL stands for Intense Pulsed Light and works by sending wavelengths into the skin, targeting pigment, so the light is absorbed by the pigment in the hair. This light then turns to heat and kills the growing cells that make the hair. It’s essential that the hair is at a certain growth stage in order for this to fully work, and that’s why it’s necessary to have a course of sessions to fully target all the hair in an area. It is not the same as laser hair removal, although you’ll often hear it referred to by that name.

 

Things to note

  • IPL is suitable for dark hair and fair skin. It won’t be able to target fair hairs (and even if you’re dark haired like me, you’ll be surprised at the number of fair hairs that are hiding away)
  • IPL is not suitable for used on suntanned skin. You will need to ensure that you use an SPF while you’re having your course of treatment, and any sunny holidays will need to be considered when booking in your sessions.
  • IPL is not recommended if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • It’s important that the only method of hair removal you use between sessions is shaving. Waxing, plucking or hair removal cream will all interrupt the growth cycle of the hair and mean that the IPL treatment cannot be effective.
  • IPL is not a permanent method of hair removal. After your initial course, you’re likely to need top up treatments once or twice a year.

 

Woman sitting in deckchair on beach sunbathing

My experience

The morning of my appointment I always shave both my legs and upper lip ready for the treatment. My consultant always targets the upper lip first in my sessions, as that’s always the one that I find more sensitive. I lie on the comfy table and there are blackout goggles to put over my eyes. She’ll do a close shave on my lip, just to check that no hairs have been missed and then apply a gel. Then I’ll feel the pressure of the IPL block on my lip, she’ll count down and then there’ll be a flash as the waves are applied. The flash is the worst thing about the lip for me – the level of pain is perfectly bearable, but it’s the shock of it. But 4 shots and you’re done on the lip, so that always goes quickly.

You get to swap the full on blackout goggles for bigger goggles that you can actually see through for the legs, which is always a relief! The block used on the leg is bigger, so it can cover a larger area, but it still takes a long time to do the whole leg.

Afterwards a cooling gel with SPF is applied to the legs. You can’t use creams or lotions on the area for 24 hours, but you can apply aloe vera if they’re sore. I’ve never felt the need to though.

IPL gets a bad rap for being painful. The level of pain I find is bearable, and I have a low pain threshold – it’s certainly less painful than waxing. I find that as the session goes on you become more accustomed to it and I almost find it quite relaxing by the end (that may be because as a busy mum, these sessions are some of my only relaxing time – lying on a bed in a quiet room is lovely, even if someone is zapping my legs!) Most people seem to liken it to flicking a hot elastic band against your skin and I’d agree with that.

My consultant has always checked that I’m comfortable with the level of pain – the idea is that it level is turned up gradually through your course of sessions but this becomes more bearable as the number of hairs decreases. It can also be more painful if you have more pigment in your skin – another reason to avoid the sun during your course of treatment.

 

Results

I was really impressed with the results on my legs from the very first session. After the session, all the pores on my legs tend to look very red, similar to after waxing, but it’s never sore and normally dies down by the time I get home from the appointment.

After my first session, you could see the little black dots of the hairs underneath the skin and over the course of two weeks they pushed their way through and then just fell out. A quick shave at 2 weeks in got rid of these and left me with nice smooth legs. I would say that at the 5 week mark of my next appointment, 80% of the hairs on my legs had not grown back.

My upper lip has taken longer to take effect, which I expected as the hair growth on your face is more linked to hormones. At the second session, it had definitely all come back but much finer than previously. By the third session, I was no longer shaving either of the areas in between appointments, just the morning of each appointment. Bearing in mind this was in the height of summer and also involved a holiday in between, I think that’s pretty remarkable.

After the third session we started to space out my appointments more, to 6, then 7 weeks, to see what kind of regrowth was coming through. By the fourth session, 98% of the hair on my legs was not growing back, and 70% of the hair on my upper lip was not growing back. And after session 5 I would say that the leg situation is still at 98% but with the upper lip hair having reduced by now 80%.

“Never shave your face!”

One thing I was concerned about was taking a razor to my upper lip. It’s the one thing that you’re always told never to do as the hair will grow back thicker. But from the very first session, the hair has been coming through finer and finer, and, apart from in between the first and second session, I’ve not had the need to shave in between treatments.

There are a number of bonuses to IPL for me. When I shaved, I could always see the little dot of the hair root sitting in the pore – I never had that totally smooth leg look. But because there are no little hair roots sitting there anymore, my legs look so much smoother. IPL is also recognised as a treatment for damaged skin – acne scarring, rosacea, thread veins – and as someone who had lots of scars on the legs from razor cuts and mosquito bites, I do think that this has improved those.

How much does it cost?

Most salons and clinics will offer a number of deals if you book a course, or if you buy two areas together – I got my upper lip for free when I booked for my lower legs. As a guideline, the average cost for lower legs comes in at around £180 a session, and around £60 a session for the upper lip.

 

IPL seems to have gone a little out of fashion as newer technologies like the Soprano Ice laser hair treatment have come in. But I’ve found it to be a really effective method of long term hair removal for me. I have just one session of my course of 6 remaining and it seems like that will be enough for my legs. I feel I’m likely to need some further sessions for my upper lip, but I’d been told to expect between 8-10 sessions for that area and I’m happy with the progress.

I’ll continue to update this post once both treatments are complete, but I hope this has given you a good idea of my experience of IPL.

 

Cuddle Fairy

 

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
17 Comments
  • Laura - dear bear and beany
    August 24, 2016

    I’m so pleased you wrote about this Katy, I have been looking into a permanent method for removing hair, I just don’t have time to fit everything in. The results for your legs sounds amazing and I am definitely going to do some research and ask my salon if they do it x

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      August 26, 2016

      I’m really impressed with the results – I’m only shaving them for the appointments now (and even then there is so little hair there! I’m looking forward to when they’re over and I just don’t have to worry about doing it at all. It’s just one of those faffy things that I never had time for, and would then be self conscious about. If you have any questions, feel free to give me a shout and I’ll be happy to help.

  • Mud Cakes and Wine
    August 31, 2016

    sounds interesting idea and something i have looked into but never more than that thanks for sharing. may work up more courage now #bloggerclubuk

  • Tas D
    August 31, 2016

    I loved having mine done. It made such a huge difference. I’m sure I need a top up as its been 5 years and I’d love to get my legs done too. #bloggerclubuk

  • Kayleigh Woodland
    September 4, 2016

    It sounds like you’ve had a positive experience which is great. I just get one chin hair now every few months and I like having a winter coat on my legs haha! But seriously, I’ve got very fine hair so I don’t think this is something I’d need to consider. Still, I am concerned this one chin hair will lead to a full on beard in the future. #kcacols

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 4, 2016

      I think it’s all about tolerance levels and how much it bothers you. For one hair on my chin I’d let that one slide too!

  • Soppymum
    September 4, 2016

    This is something I’ve always thought about but never taken the plunge. I’ve always been self conscious about having dark hair and am forever plucking and shaving! Thank you for your honest account of it, maybe something I look at properly soon! #kcacols

  • Island Living 365
    September 4, 2016

    Oh wow these sessions sound really good and something I have always been interested in but was worried that it would be painful. I might have to do some further reading after this review 🙂 #KCACOLS

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 4, 2016

      That was my main concern too – I have a really low pain threshold! I can’t bear waxing, but I find this bearable.

  • Arthurwears
    September 4, 2016

    As a fair skinned but very ‘hairy’ human, I read this with interest. Sorting out my hair growth is a massive and continuous job for me and about 5 or 6 years ago I bought a home laser/IPL machine from Boots. Im pretty sure it was IPL as the hair had to be shaved first, then a gel applied, all freckles had to be coloured in with a white eyeliner and then the machine was placed on the skin and gave flashes of light which were hot but not too painful. Again, couldn’t go in the sun during treatment. My o it disappointment was that it couldn’t be used in more ‘intimate’ or ‘sensitive’ areas. I found that as long as I used it the growth slowed down but as soon as I stopped it just came back. I’ve always wondered if a salon grade machine would be any better! #KCACOLS

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 4, 2016

      Thanks so much for commenting Sarah. I believe that home IPL machines are restricted in power under EU restrictions – a salon machine is far more powerful (although the reason I mentioned the actual machine model here is that not all salon machines are the same either!). I’m guessing that the fact you can’t use it on intimate areas is down to similar health and safety guidelines and concerns over how the general public use it, as my salon definitely offer it on pretty much any body part you want. It definitely sounds like IPL to me though. It might be worth doing some more research and having a consultation to see whether it might be worth trying in a clinic or salon – I appreciate that results do differ from person to person.

  • Rebecca Taylor
    September 4, 2016

    This is so interesting Katy – thank you for sharing. I’d never even heard of IPL! I am really pleased you have found something that works for you and a more long-term solution. I’m glad it wasn’t too painful too. I may look into this at some point. Thank you #KCACOLS

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 14, 2016

      You know I’m a massive wimp when it comes to pain, so hopefully that’s a good indication of the level of pain involved! I’m really pleased with the outcome – it’s so lovely not to worry about it!

  • Savannah
    September 9, 2016

    Oh wow, this is super interesting to me!! I have a Filipino background, so not only am I on the hairy side but, like you, my hair is really dark. I’ve always been a bit interested in long term hair removal, but was always under the impression that it was far too expensive, and never really looked into it. Those prices give me hope though, and this is definitely something that I need to look into. I’m so glad you’re seeing the results you wanted, and that the pain was tolerable. Thanks soooo much for sharing your experience! <3 #KCACOLS

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 14, 2016

      I do think it’s got far more affordable lately, and when you compare it to the cost of salon waxing over the year, it definitely wins (not that I ever went to a salon to get waxed, but even the cost of razors is pretty high!)

  • Someone's Mum
    September 10, 2016

    This is really interesting. I also struggle with the hair on my lips and use cream at the moment. I would love something that lasted longer. Thanks for linking with #KCACOLS. We hope you come back next time.

    • Katy | Hot Pink Wellingtons
      September 14, 2016

      I was also a cream user, but I started to find it was coming back within a week which is just a major faff. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, and co-hosting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *